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A few weeks ago after our monthly coaching call, I told Kelsey that I felt like I could PR my 5k. It kind of came out of nowhere. I hadn’t been training for one. (Unless you count the 5k at the end of a spring tri.) With all of my speed work in preparation for and after the marathon, perhaps I was feeling confident that I could do it. So I mentioned it and Kelsey encouraged me to sign up for a 5k only days later.

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This race report covers my entire experience, which includes the expo the day prior. If you’d like to skip to race day, click here.

The Expo: May 16, 2015

sugarloaf marathon 2015

Darren and I started our journey up to Kingfield around 1:30 to make it to the packet pickup. I had never been to Sugarloaf before – I know, I know, and I’m a Mainer! I was so excited to see the shirts and to see what bib number I had been assigned. I’m a tad bit superstitious – so a nice bib number is like a good omen to me.

sugarloaf marathon 2015

I was kind of expecting a big expo – with vendors and the like. It was nothing like that at all! We entered the base lodge to find two tables – marathon bib pickup and 15k bib pickup. Thinking back, I’m not surprised – it can’t be easy for vendors to travel up to Kingfield! The Portland-area races were always packed with vendors, but a 2.5 hour drive to Sugarloaf is a haul.

sugarloaf marathon 2015

sugarloaf marathon 2015

We stuck around only as long as it took to get our packets and went to our home for the night. A fellow SheJAM-mer – Deirdre – allowed us to stay in her house up there and it was beautiful. We entered, dropped our bags, and went “woah.” That’s an “I’ve-never-stayed-in-a-place-this-nice” kind of woah.

The shirt! Sugarloaf is a client of ours at work – and since I was going to run the marathon this year, I had the great honor of designing the t-shirts! It was so surreal showing up and seeing other runners wearing something that I designed!

My “flat Kelsey!” Featuring an RBK zip-up, MPG shorts, Avia shirt, Champion sports bra, FlipBelt, ProCompression marathon socks, Mizuno Wave Rider 18s, Shot Bloks, Honey Stinger waffles, Nuun, and a bib belt. (Not pictured: my Nathan Quick Draw water bottle.)

So Darren and I played cards, ate our dinner (a sweet potato + farro casserole), watched 30 Rock, and went to bed by 8:30. It took me a while to fall asleep. I was really tired, but also really fired up about the marathon and couldn’t get it out of my head. I finally did fall asleep though, because when I woke up the next time, it was raining. I was so sure that my alarm was going to go off any second. I checked my phone and…nope. It was midnight! Yet there I was, wide awake in bed again.

I finally got back to sleep a second time and woke up to my alarm.

Race Day: May 17, 2015

4:00 hit and I practically jumped out of bed. I was feeling ready. There were 3 hours, a breakfast and hydration between me and the starting line. I ended up needing all of that time – despite it feeling long.

I ate about 3/4 of my oatmeal and just couldn’t force the rest down. I think the nerves were hitting me. I ended up drinking a ton of water though and had to use the bathroom about 7 times before leaving. At least, if nothing else, I was well hydrated.

Darren drove me to the start and dropped me off since he had to get about 25 minutes down the road to the 15k start.

I got in line to use the porta-potties and it took forever. There were only 5-6 people in line behind each porta-potty but I used about 20 minutes of my 30 before the gun waiting in line!


(photo by Karen Raymond)

I found my family about 8 minutes before the gun and loved that I had their support. I hadn’t been totally sure about who was going to show up until that morning and was extremely – and pleasantly – surprised that they all did!

startline_carly
(photo by Carly Raymond)

Lining up behind the start mat, I felt a definite calm come over me. I needed that, too. I welcomed the total absence of thoughts and felt that it was kind of meditative – at least until the gun went off. It was totally unexpected and loud. A few people around me met my glance and admit that it scared them too!


(photo by Karen Raymond)

mile3_carly
(photo by Carly Raymond)

So we were off! I kept pace really well the first few miles. My legs felt fresh and I was so happy to be outside running the event that I’d been waiting for! The scenery was beautiful. Around mile 3, the trees opened up and we were surrounded by water on both sides. It was absolutely stunning. The sun was out and the air was warm. Right off the bat it was 65-70 degrees, which quickly went from feeling comfortable to warm to hot.

These miles passed really quickly, actually. I think around mile 4, my family passed in the van and cheered for me. That gave me a boost! (I could hear them yelling and screaming way before they passed into my view! Turns out, my choice of outfit colors was perfect. I definitely stood out!)

I passed by two men who seemed to recognize each other. One, wearing green, was discussing doing an 8:00 pace until the end, since he was using this as a training run for his 50-miler at Pineland next weekend. I figured – great, as long as I’m in front of green shirt guy, I’m golden! I was doing 7:55 or so at the time so I ended up ahead of him.

We passed through this little area of shops a mile or two later and I happened to look over to my left and saw green shirt guy! He said hello and we made small talk for a bit. He gave me some pointers on the hills to come and we discussed our goal times. I looked down at my watch at one point, saw that I was doing 8:30 and decided that I needed to speed up. I wished him luck and we parted ways.


(photo by Paul Raymond)

The hills started right up at about mile 6 – and they were rollers. I remember two of them being really tough, where my breathing was affected and I just felt exhausted at the top. Both of those hills were short and steep. I half expected to see my family at the top of both of them, yet I didn’t and I was really relieved. I remember just feeling grumpy and hoping they didn’t have to “see me like this.”

Here’s the thing. I had practiced fueling with Honey Stinger Waffles and I was supposed to eat my first at 1:00. Well that hour hit right as the hills did. I took one bite of a waffle and it was so dry. The sun and heat had dried it right up in my water bottle pocket! I struggled to chew that and it took me way too long to swallow it. I just couldn’t breathe while chewing, especially on the hills. So I opted for the Shot Bloks instead, which weren’t much better.

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(photo by Carly Raymond)

The infamous mile 10 hill was so much easier than the other two. Yes it was long and winding, but I would have taken 5 more of those over the shorter and steeper ones. My pace, however, was starting to suffer. Mile 9 was my first mile over goal pace – and it was almost a minute over! Yet I knew that I could still make up for it. I flew down the next hill – well, more like fell upright and was dragged down by the force of gravity. That was a crazy steep downhill!

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(photo by Paul Raymond)

10-15 flew by. My pace was significantly slower and I started to realize, after a few miles over goal pace, that making up that time was going to be harder and harder. In fact, after mile 12, I didn’t see a single mile at or under my goal pace. Mentally, I knew that I was slipping away from a BQ. I just knew that I couldn’t make up that much time. I ended up having a really crippling stomach cramp at mile 13 and had to walk it out and massage it. It did go away after about a mile and a half, but that really killed my confidence. I decided right then and there that I needed to drink more. Cramps = dehydration and it being 75 at that point, I was not going to fool around with my safety. I also took the walking opportunity to eat some more of my waffles. Again – it was hard to get them down, but I knew that I had to keep eating if I wanted to finish.

At every water station from that point forward, I took two cups. One to fill my water bottle and one to sip and pour over my head. I was so glad that I carried a water bottle for the race, since it meant that I could be hydrating consistently throughout the race, rather than waiting every 2 miles to get a mouthful.

At 16, green shirt guy caught up with me. I remember him saying, “I was hoping I wouldn’t see you again!” In other words, the fact that he caught up meant that my time goal was shot. I then admit, for the first time out loud: “I’m just here to finish.” And I was finally okay with it.

The heat had been tough to deal with – and I didn’t know the proper way to hydrate, so I drank. A lot. I ended up having to use the porta-potties at the 15k start (almost 18 miles in), then continued on my way. So at least I was well hydrated!

Green shirt guy kept me distracted from the heat and my tired legs by talking – at that point, I just didn’t seem to be able to say much back but I told him that I appreciated his company.

mile20_paul
(photo by Paul Raymond)


(photo by Paul Raymond)

At mile 20, I saw my family again. I tell you – they were the best cheerleaders there! A few other runners turned to me and said, “that’s awesome!” I loved having a motivational team there for me – and I’m so grateful for that. My mom yelled, “Kelsey you’re doing so well! You’re ahead of schedule!” Which, I wasn’t. But hearing that she thought I was really helped me out.

Then, almost immediately, the calf cramps began. It was like a sudden and jarring Charley horse in my right calf that just locked it right up and prevented me from extending my leg fully. Green shirt guy had dealt with them before and showed me stretches that I could do to relieve it. It helped a lot. I could get about a half mile out before my calf seized up again. It was frustrating – but in my head I felt calm about it. I knew that I would finish, even if I had to crawl. I also knew that I would be leaving the Sugarloaf Marathon having done as well as my body physically allowed me to do.

I kept drinking too. I didn’t want dehydration to make my calves worse.

At this point, after walking every now and then, it became clear that green shirt guy was going to stay with me until the end. He told me that a marathon is a tough thing to do alone – and that he was grateful for a guy who ran with him for part of his first! I finally asked him what his name was and he replied, “Darren!” NO WAY! My Sugarloaf Marathon angel has the same name as my boyfriend! (I’ll call green shirt guy D2 to avoid confusion.)

When I saw the marker for mile 25, I smiled like I had never smiled before. A spectator who was nearby yelled, “A mile left!” And then added to me, “And with a smile still on, good for you!”

And that mile 25 ended up being the happiest mile. Cars started to line the streets and spectators with them. I couldn’t wipe the smile off of my face. I could see the mile marker for 26 not too far ahead and I knew without a doubt that I would finish. I knew that I was less than a mile out from being a marathoner! I kept saying things like, “Unbelievable” and “No way!” and D2 would agree and add, “You’re going to do this!”


(photo by Capstone Photography)

At 26, D2 picked up the pace and turned back to me, “Come on Kelsey! Finish strong! You’ve got this!” I didn’t think I had anything left to give, but apparently I did! I limped through a 6:40 pace (Charley horses and all!) for the final .2 miles. I spotted my family right before I went over the timing mat and just gleamed.


(photo by Paul Raymond)

I crossed that finish line just a lick under 4:00 – a far cry from my original goal, but a finish nonetheless.

Honestly, I expected that moment that I crossed the finish line to be the best moment of my life. I thought that finishing a marathon would be my greatest achievement and that I’d be all smiles for at least a week. It was a magical moment, and my body was so happy to be done – but I was already feeling nostalgic; already missing the run itself. I’m going to be really cheesy for a moment while I try to explain what I was (and still am!) feeling. You know that quote that goes something like, “it’s not about the destination, but about the journey.” That’s exactly how I was feeling. Crossing the finish line symbolized the end of my training, but emotionally, it didn’t carry with it the same power that the past 5 months have cumulatively. I’m unbelievably proud to have run 26.2 consecutive miles, but I would be seriously mistaken if I wasn’t equally as proud to have run over 500 miles – through rain, snow and ice – to train for the darn thing!

It took almost all day for it to finally sink in that I had hit a milestone that I dreamed about for over a year and trained really hard for for over 5 months. I ran a marathon – I became a marathoner on May 17, 2015! I am proud of myself. What I did today is actually amazing – even if it was unbelievably painful!

I feel like this race tested every part of me, physically/mentally/emotionally. You name it. I had to outrun any doubts in my head, because they sure did come up. I had to outrun leg cramps that hindered even my ability to walk and I had to keep running when two of my time goals had already gone by. And yet, when I think back to that marathon, I think about the miles and waving to my family as they drove by. I think about the first half of the race where I was so sure that I was leaving with a BQ. I don’t think about the finish line because I don’t want to be done.

I’ll try anything once – but not necessarily never again! And now after I’ve had over 24 hours to reflect, I’ve decided that I’m definitely going to run another marathon. I’ve finally found something that is truly difficult for me to do, and it makes it all that more enticing. Sugarloaf was an incredible, beautiful and challenging first marathon. But I know that I have a better marathon in me.

It’s hard to believe how fast the last 5 months have flown by. It’s even harder to believe that I’ve been training to run a marathon for five whole months! I don’t think I’ve ever commit myself to anything so thoroughly. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that in just a few days, I’m going to be lining up behind a timing mat in Eustis, about to run my first marathon. I’m so excited! I’ve been giving myself motivational speeches and listening to energizing music. I’m so ready for this.

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reading – Dan Barber’s The Third Plate. Emily recommended this title to me a few months ago with the opening argument that It’s totally worth owning so I finally decided to make the purchase. I’m about 1/4 of the way through and holy. I’m equal parts fascinated and overwhelmed by the information in this book. It’s so interesting but it’s definitely something that you need an alert mind to read! Perfect for a lovely afternoon while…

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sipping – iced tea + mint. I’ve found the perfect ratio for making iced tea. I’ve got this huge half gallon mason jar that I fill with hot sink water, 5 bags of black tea, 1 bag of Bigelow’s plantation mint tea, screw the cap on – keeping the tea bag string outside of the jar, and let it rest upside down in the fridge for a few hours. (That way the bags are submerged, since the string is screwed into the jar lid.) It’s delicious. Add a slice of lemon – yum. I’ve actually traded my travel mug of coffee in the morning for a cup of this stuff.

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tapering – with more tea! I had my last long run on Sunday and it was beautiful out. Though I had been considering otherwise the night before, I decided to get up early and run so that I could get some housework done. I’m so glad that I did. While it probably wasn’t too much above 70 degrees by the time I returned, it got up to 80 degrees in the afternoon! I took advantage of that while waiting for my laundry to be done and sat on the porch for a few hours, reading and recovering.

What does my training scheduling look like this week? A lot of easy/short runs! Maybe 10 miles total – if that. A short swim workout. And lots and lots of stretching + foam rolling!

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celebrating – Ally’s graduation! Ally graduated over the weekend and I’m so proud of her! It was a day packed full of happiness, photos and lots of food.

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also celebrating – Mother’s Day. Ally, Carly and I got together a few weeks ago to take some new portraits for mom. We had done this 5+ years ago and it was definitely time for an update! Here are some of my favorite shots. I ended up going with the one on the left to give as a gift.

writing – guest posts over at Azumio’s blog! My first one went live last week. Read it here: Defining Success as an Amateur Athlete. (There will be 7 more posts coming over the next few months!)

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23 days until Sugarloaf. That’s 3 more long runs. 3 weeks of training. Guys, I don’t know how to feel about this! One second I’m extremely excited – feeling like I’ll go into it and crush my goals. The next, I’ll start feeling daunted by the whole process.

Most of all – I’m not entirely sure that I want this journey to end. It’ll be great for my social life but what on Earth did I used to do with all of that free time? I’m not kidding – that is a real question. Sometimes, when I have a particularly short workout planned for the evening – or if I manage to fit it in before work or during my lunch break – my evenings just feel so long. I’m so used to getting home at 7:30 where my schedule fits perfectly: cook, eat, shower, read, bed at 9:30. My evening ritual has been simplified so much and tuned to be so extremely efficient that a night off feels like so much time.

Did anyone else watch the Boston Marathon? I had the live video on the side of my screen at work. What an inspirational race. It’s hard to not be totally touched by the performance of over 30,000 athletes. I know that I want to run Boston someday. I hope that someday is next year – but I know that a 3:35 time is a huge accomplishment for my first marathon.

So how has this training been going? I know – I haven’t been sharing much about that lately. I’ve thrown myself into it 100% which has left little room for much else! I’ll share a little bit of what my training has been looking like.

I start each week with some cross training. I’ve been taking coach Kelsey’s spin classes and those have been killer workouts. Sometimes, depending on what my training looked like the week before, she’ll have me use the spin class as an active recovery – which means that I participate only to a certain predetermined level of effort. One class, I was allowed only to exert myself to 70%. The spin class after a really tough week and a noticeable bump in long run distance, I was to give only 30-40% effort. Normally, I’m a “go big or go home” kind of person, but I really like that Kelsey reels me in. A big part of her training is injury prevention and I’m so thankful that my body has been responding to the training. I don’t think that this injury-free training is luck-based at all.

Each week I also do a strength session. I look forward to these training days because they really switch up the pace of the week. They also tend to fall on days when my legs are just spent and could use an extra day off from running. Though I think it’s a combination of multiple factors of my training – I’m a total believer in building upper body strength to become a faster runner. These strength sessions are mostly calisthenics (and they tend to fall on the same day as the swim – see below) that involve pushups, planks, wall sits, the hardest ab move I’ve ever had to do, and a lot of dynamic moves for about an hour. Let me just say that before starting this training, I could do maybe 10 pushups. We now end every spin class with 50 pushups!

Kelsey knows that I’ll be participating in the Tri for a Cure again this year, so she’s been strategically placing some swim workouts in my training to get me started. I’m lucky to live 10 minutes away from a community pool that opens at 6am for adult lap swims. So you can bet I’m there bright and early flopping around in a lane. It took me a few weeks to really get the hang of swimming (let alone, first thing in the morning!) but I’m becoming more comfortable with pool etiquette (sharing a lane was an odd fear/insecurity that I had). I had always preferred open water swims, and I probably always will, but I’m getting really comfortable in the pool. I even did flip turns on Wednesday – and swam my first mile in 2015!

yassos

Once or twice a week, Kelsey has me doing speedwork. The type of speedwork varies, but what remains constant is that it’s hard and I always feel that those workouts give me such a confidence boost. For the first month and a half of training, some of these speed workouts were replaced with “treadmill mountains.” These workouts (perfect, since we were going through the worst winter in a few years!) consisted of cranking the incline on the treadmill and walking for 2, sometimes 5 minutes at a time. I recall one treadmill mountain workout where I had to run the mountain! (Perfect for Sugarloaf training.) Kelsey has had me doing Yassos, running with striders, and running at pace. Half way through training, I did a check-in run – where I ran 8 miles at marathon pace as a test, surrounded by a 2 mile warmup/2 mile cooldown. (At the time, I was up to ~15 miles on my longest run, so though the distance was shorter, the pace was definitely harder.)

Sometimes an easy run will be thrown into the mix. Easy runs usually occur the day before my long run or in the middle of the week as an extra “recovery” day. The goal: just enjoy yourself, love running, find gratitude. Funny enough – these runs are usually my least favorite. My expectations going into an easy run is that it’ll be quick (they rarely exceed an hour) and easy. The funny thing is that my legs are usually so tired on these days – and when you go into a run expecting it to be quick…it never is!

Of course, you can’t forget the rest day. I get Fridays completely off from training. Kelsey sometimes has me participate in assignments (one | two) on these days. They’re fun and thought-provoking exercises that have definitely improved my opinion of myself and my relationship with others.

The long run. The long run has actually consistently been my favorite part of marathon training. I didn’t expect it to be. At all. But each of these runs has been incredibly therapeutic and exciting. Because the sole purpose of the Sunday long run is endurance (not speed), I get to go out at 8am, run, explore new places, eat shot bloks and honey waffles, and return just in time for brunch. Really, it is the best.

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I ran my first 20-miler two weeks ago and though it was quite painful at times, I was on top of the world. That 20-mile run is significant in the world of marathon training. It’s symbolic, in a way. Though I will be running close to 21 miles (maybe 22?) on Sunday, that 20-miler was the first time my watch (and my legs!!) had seen a 2 in front of another digit in terms of miles!

This has been an incredible journey. I have learned so much about my abilities as a runner, about running nutrition, about recovery. I’ve learned how to pace myself. I’ve learned how to run through pain and tired legs. I’ve learned how to find happiness and optimism in the most difficult of times. I’m so proud of myself for sticking to this. I haven’t missed a single training run. I’ve completed them all to the best of my ability. I want to run this marathon knowing that if something goes wrong, it’s not because I didn’t train as hard and smart as I possibly could.

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It hasn’t all been fireworks, though. I’ve had my tough runs. I’ve had heavy legs that made me feel inadequate. I’ve had GI distress that destroyed my enthusiasm. I’ve felt fatigue that had me in bed by 7pm. I’ve had knee tightness that slowed my long run pace by more than 1:00 per mile. Runs that made me dread the next workout. I can’t help but feel that these tough times have humbled me quite a bit – have helped me prepare for any challenges that may arise on race day. Marathon training hasn’t been easy and I never expected it to be. Running my first marathon is going to feel like that much more of an accomplishment.

However, there have been some fantastic moments and accomplishments during this training. I’ve adopted a no excuses mentality – I learned to run in the worst conditions: snow, freezing rain, terrible wind – and I’ve come out a stronger athlete! I’ve learned how to properly foam roll and to actually do it regularly! I’ve improved upon my pre-race routine – heck, I get to practice every Sunday! I’ve PR’d my half marathon time (and in doing so, PR’d my 10k and 10 mile time too!). I have a new appreciation for slowing down, taking a walk, and going to bed early. I’ve made myself proud.

A quick glimpse into training since Feb. 1:
94 hours 33 minutes spent training (that’s almost 4 days!)
396.58 miles run
3.52 miles swum
1530 pushups
11 treadmill runs
11 rest days

This race has a reputation for being windy and rainy. For whatever reason, the weather never seems to cooperate on the day of this race. (Even as a precaution, all runners received an email a few days before about the dangers of hypothermia. Yikes!)

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